On March 30, 2018 the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) committed cold-blooded murder in Gaza. Thousands of unarmed Palestinians marched peacefully to protest the occupation and declare their right to return to their homeland. The Great Return March was met with gunfire and 18 people died.
The killings were caught on camera but the response from the United States, its allies and their friends in corporate media reveal as much as any photography ever will. The massacre was either disappeared as if it never took place, or was described as a “clash.” The BBC, CNN, the New York Times and the rest of their cohort used this word which implies some equality in defense capability when one side, the one with the dead people, was completely unarmed.
The media covered up for Washington’s friends and politicians were silent. Bernie Sanders’ mealy mouthed response was one of the few to be heard. He called the shootings “tragic” and said that the IDF “overreacted.” Crediting him with these weasel words is damning with faint praise but this minimal response is not surprising given the degree of Israeli influence in American politics.
While the media and the politicians work themselves into a frenzy about alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the Israeli government happily continues its decades long influence over American politics. It is quite open and understood by everyone that obedience to Zionism is a necessity in political life. Any politician who questions Israeli policy is at immediate risk of being defeated by a well-funded opponent. The media also collude and ensure silence on this subject, which is one of the most open secrets in American life.
One need only compare the official and media reaction when any nation declared an enemy is under attack. The differences in treatment are obvious and glaring. When the Iranian government faced domestic protests, the United States demanded a United Nations Security Council investigation. Now the U.S. turns the tables and blocks Security Council investigation of Israel’s latest killing spree.
It is always clear who is on the outs with the United States and its NATO friends. There is no evidence that the Russian government poisoned former spy Sergie Skripal. Yet, more than 20 countries followed the lead of the U.K. and expelled Russian diplomats over flimsy assertions. Any nation that dared to show skepticism quickly fell into line and repeated the unproven trope. New Zealand initially made the reasonable statement that it didn’t believe Russian diplomats stationed in that country were spies. Just one day later they announced that the expelled Russians wouldn’t be welcome there either. The quick change is itself proof of pressure exerted when the powerful nations want something done.
Everyone from journalists to politicians censor themselves. The process has been perfected to such a decree that no threat needs to be made. Everyone understands the risk of speaking out and few are willing to pay the price.
Consider the story of Steven Salaita, a highly regarded scholar of American Indian history. When he used social media to vent his outrage over Israel’s Gaza war crimes in 2014, he lost a tenured position at the University of Illinois. He eventually recovered monetary damages but four years later he was turned down for every position he sought in countries all over the world. The message is clear to any would-be critics of Israeli policy.
The American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) holds its annual conference and gets Democrats and Republicans to show up and say the same thing. Any politician who wants to run for office doesn’t stray from Zionist orthodoxy and even those with leftish credentials repeat verbatim the same words as the most hawkish conservative.
In 2014, Congress voted unanimously to support the Israeli government’s killing spree in Gaza. Even the vote to declare war on Japan in December 1941 was not unanimous. Nothing is ever unanimous in Congress. But this coordinated falling in line is itself proof of the heavy handed meddling that is a fact of political life in this country.
Israel would not exist at all without U.S. support. But its supporters have turned the dependency upside down. The recipient of American largesse is firmly in control of the debate and the result is that “serious” journalists keep a straight face when a massacre is labeled as a clash.
Steven Salaita spoke very eloquently about his experience as an opponent of Zionism. “I condemned a brutal ethnocratic state. On this count, I will die unapologetic. And insofar as we are forced to contemplate life in binaries, I prefer unemployment to subservience. My heart is with those who struggle for dignity amid terrible oppression.”
Those are courageous words. We should all strive to do likewise and not hesitate to say that a criminal apartheid state is just that. Like the endless videos showing police murder in the U.S., there was ample evidence of Israel’s brutality before the Great Return March. If Palestinians are willing to brave bullets, the very least we can do is speak the truth and perhaps make life a little more difficult for people who interfere with what is left of democracy in this country.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.